Four more present request for ARP consideration

Published 11:04 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
The Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday heard four more requests for a portion of the $11 million that the county has received from the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
To date, 14 presentations have been made to the committee that is charged with hearing the proposals and then assigning a prioritization list to the Financial Management committee, budget committee, and finally the full commission.
“We want to make sure that the projects will help the most people and that’s why we want everybody’s input,” said Dr. Robert Acuff, chairman of the Health and Welfare committee on Monday. “When people think about $11 million, that’s a lot of money but once you start giving it out, it’s not a lot of money.”
Acuff invited anyone who wanted to present their proposal to come forth during the public comment portion of the agenda.
The following is a recap of those presenters from Tuesday’s meeting:
  • Leslie Hughes and Chris Sims with Carter County 911 spoke to the committee asking for over $47,000 to cover the cost of a mobile ready center as a tactical dispatch. Both items would help make the center mobile where a dispatcher could respond to any kind of situation whether it be a fire, search and rescue, or an active shooting scene to expedite communication and allow other dispatchers to continue to answer other emergency calls without tying up the system. According to Hughes, it could be used to call for more units to a fire or a situation where more deputies are needed.
  • Representatives with the West Carter County and Watauga Volunteer Fire Department asked the committee to consider funding requests already presented to commission by Hampton and Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Departments as well as the five remaining volunteer fire departments who have needs. “Five other departments will be submitting their requests for funding,” said West Carter County’s David Jones. “These other five have needs and we feel all departments deserve funding because prices are increasing daily. We don’t want a situation where one department is bragging about what they got compared to another department. Fire equipment is expensive as it takes $15,000 to outfit one individual to fight a fire.” Jones said he would like to see all seven volunteer departments receive equal funding.
  • Elizabethton City Manager Daniel Estes appeared a second time before the committee asking for funding not from the ARP money but from the $7 million the county received as part of the TDEC utility infrastructure funds the county received. The $2.6 million asked for was for replacing 5,556 meters for residents that the city serves in the county with water. Estes explained that the city is spending all of its utility infrastructure money for city residents and told the committee that the money for the county residents was routed through TDEC to the county. Jonathan Pleasant, Elizabethton Water Resources General Manager, told the committee that it takes the entire month to read all the meters. If the meters are updated, officials could monitor usage in realtime and notify customers if a suspected leak is taking place within hours of the issue arising.
  • Director Terry Arnold with the Carter County EMS asked for a new EMS truck and supplies totaling $327,000. The EMS currently is running a 2002 truck for transports only. Arnold also shared a grim view of where the EMS could be in five years if the infrastructure is not addressed quickly. He added that the EMS puts $2 million back into the economy annually.
Following the presentation, the committee addressed points on how to prioritize the projects and a weighted numerical system to be assigned from one to five with one being the lowest and five the highest in regard to scoring.
The committee reiterated that proposals must:
  • Have in the body of the contents the number of people it will serve.
  • Meet the criteria of what the state has said the money can be used for.
  • Address the healthcare safety net including fire departments, EMS, and partnering with the City of Elizabethton.
  • Be in project form. The committee will not be responsible for writing anybody’s project. The documentation should include the appropriate information needed including people served, cost, engineering, etc.
  • Be a turn-key project and not one that requires phases to accomplish.
Committee members also said utility projects take a high priority. The example noted was the 326 residents in Elk Mills and Poga that don’t have running water.
The committee has scheduled another town hall at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 28. There could possibly be one more additional town hall if it is determined to be needed at that time in April.

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